El Dorado fish come under commission scrutiny

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks commissioners will vote Thursday on increasing the length limits that can be caught of wipers, walleye and black bass at El Dorado Lake.

Some creel limits could be reduced and sauger could be stocked in the lake.

Biologists are hoping to increase the number of big predatory fish in the lake to counter a growing white perch population.

The daily limit on walleye could be reduced from five to two and the length limit raised from 18 to 21 inches.

The length limit could be raised from 18 to 21 inches on wipers and from 15 to 18 inches on black bass. Daily creel limits will remain at two and five.

History says the plan to reduce white perch numbers should work.

"It's worked at Cheney, where things are looking a lot better," said Doug Nygren, KDWP fisheries chief. "We just don't want to wait too long and let things get down too far at El Dorado. We probably waited too long at Cheney."

The invasive species was inadvertently stocked in Cheney about 12 years ago. For many years, they greatly hampered walleye, white bass and crappie reproduction.

Several years ago, restrictions like those proposed for El Dorado were implemented.

Recent test nettings and reports from anglers show white perch numbers are down and young year-classes of most gamefish are strong at Cheney.

White perch were first documented at El Dorado last summer, when several were caught by an angler.

Test nettings and trappings have since shown the lake to have white perch from 1 to 8 inches.

"We've definitely got them (reproducing)," said Craig Johnson, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist for the lake. "They're not hard to find anymore."

Johnson wants to add sauger to the lake for the good of white perch control and anglers.

He's proposing a length limit of 15 inches and a daily limit of five on sauger.

Sauger are close relatives of walleye and have proven to be an effective predator on white perch in other places. Nygren said sauger have done well in other Kansas lakes.

Sauger are native to the Arkansas River and some tributaries. They may have been native to the Walnut River pre-civilization. He said it's easy to distinguish between the two species.

It's hoped anglers will catch enough legal-length sauger to keep them happy after they're forced to release bigger walleye.

"A lot of times, at our other lakes, it seems when people are having trouble catching walleye the sauger come through," Nygren said.

Sauger are said to be as flavorful as walleye.

If approved by commissioners, El Dorado's new fishery limits could go into effect Jan. 1.

Commissioners will also vote on a fee change for the cost of spring turkey hunting permits and game tags.

Hunters who buy a combined permit and game tag before March 31 could get a $5 savings over the regular price. It's hoped the savings will encourage more people to buy permits and to go hunting more because they have the permits and tags.

The meeting will have 1:30 and 7 p.m. sessions at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building, 610 Walnut in Sedan. Call 620-672-5911 or go to www.kdwp.state.ks.us for information.